By BEN JOHNSON
When it comes to strength and conditioning at the collegiate level in Oklahoma, no name is more prominent than Rob Glass. The well-known Oklahoma State assistant coach has been shaping and molding bodies on the OSU football team since 2005.
Glass’ background is unquestioned.
Yet, Northeastern State strength and conditioning coach John Murray has something that Glass doesn’t. A background in military fitness.
That’s right, Murray, at one time, was an instructor and master fitness trainer in the Army during Operation Just Cause and Desert Storm.
“I trained people in special skills,” Murray said. “Specialty skills was rotary aircraft (helicopters). Anything to do with them.”
And don’t think that NSU football players aren’t aware of Murray’s qualifications when it comes to training.
“They know that,” Murray said. “They’ll often refer to that a lot of times.”
Since Murray joined the NSU coaching staff six years ago, he’s been the de facto conditioning coach, orchestrating exercise regiments throughout the course of each calendar year. However, it wasn’t until January of this year that Murray was officially labeled as NSU’s “strength and conditioning coordinator.”
“At the Division II level, you wear a lot of hats, and that’s one of the primary reasons that (NSU head coach Kenny Evans) hired me,” Murray said. “He said, ‘John, I need some guys to have discipline and be bigger and stronger.’ So after serving as a master fitness trainer in the Army for a long time, the two kind of fit together.”
Looking back, Evans says hiring Murray as a trainer and disciplinarian was one of the best decisions he ever made.
“When I got here, I tried to assess all the needs we had,” Evans recalled. “They had no one working in the football strength area. Players didn’t have set hours where they would come work out. No one would run a strength program the way they were running it here; it was pretty astonishing, really.
“So through a special donation, we were able to hire Coach Murray, and he’s helped develop our conditioning program. In fact, our strength program is probably double what it was when I got here five years ago.”
Murray is now also in charge of the H.A.W.K.S program at NSU. Evans said the acronym stands for: habits, attitudes, work ethic and knowledge to equal success.
“We consider that to be our program that’ll put us over the edge,” Evans said. “Some people would describe (Murray) as old school with stuff in the weight room, but it’s done nothing but improve our program. Maybe I’m old school, too.”
As the NSU assistant coach with the most longevity during Evans’ current six-year tenure, Murray was also promoted to assistant coach in January.
“I’m humbled and I appreciate Coach Evans’ confidence in me to be able to step into that role,” said Murray, 48. “It’s a lot of stuff that I’ve done before.”
Evans said Murray was a natural fit to be the new assistant coach
“When Coach (Mike) Knoll retired from the coaching ranks, I didn’t have to hire anyone from the outside into the assistant coach’s role,” Evans said. “It’s a thankless job, but probably the most important job. I’m gone recruiting a lot, so someone has to stay here with the players, and Coach Murray is with them every day.”